With the persistence of the dry weather I thought I'd share with you the latest version of my clay pot irrigation system. I've been experimenting with the setup for a few years and this rig works to my satisfaction and prevails against, weather, pet dogs,bush turkeys, cane toads and crows.
Get yourself a un-glazed terracotta clay pot at least 20 cm in diameter. That should cost you no more than $4.
Fill in the hole at the bottom of the pot so that it doesn't leak. I prefer to cover the pot base with a layer of grout.
THE SHADE CLOTH
Any sections of shade cloth will do. You may have pieces laying around the shed. I find successive layering is the best approach because the layers sharply reduce evaporation but still allow the diffusion of water when you direct the hose at the pot opening. Three layers of shade cloth seems to be the optimum number for efficacy. Trust me: you want the top layer to be really bright so see if you can beg some red 'safety' cloth from a building site. Most construction sites dispose of the cloth when they are finished building.
Either buy some pegs made for pinning weed mat, or make your own by cutting and bending wire.Stretch the cloth firmly so that you get a sort of tight drum effect.
You want to anchor the covers securely because family dogs, possums, birds and the like may stand on them and force them to depress. When they curve down cane toads occupy the space to rejuvenate their skin.
POSITIONING THE POTS
Generally depending on your soil you should be able to bury your pots 1-1.5 metres apart.You may need to experiment given your conditions and what you grow but a wetting zone of 60 cm is a useful rule of thumb.
You'll find that with a concentrated hose spray you can fill several pots from the one standing position.How often you'll need to do that will depend on your soil. The system is primarily driven by gravity so it is best to keep the pots 'topped up' and never allow them to empty. You'll be able to observe the water rise to the brim -- you can even hear it as it sounds like filling a kettle at a tap.
In my sandy soil I attend my pots every second day.
I designed my garden around mounds, roughly 1.5 metres in diameter then buried pots at the apex like a crater in a volcano. This elevated area makes a useful contour that mirrors the presumed reach of moisture which diffuses in a tea drop or pear shape pattern from the clay pot reservoir.
A NETWORK OF SPRINGS
You could move your pots around to suit your planting schedule, but I find it best to treat them like underground springs that consolidate & water the immediate ecology over time. So mine are permanent fixtures in the landscape.
The closer seedlings are planted to the pots, the more consistent will be their water uptake. Close planting of many plants seems to work well under these conditions. However, any time you plant seedlings in the wetting zone, you need to water them directly until their roots grow out and orientate to the irrigation resource.
ADVANTAGES OF CLAY POT IRRIGATION
DISADVANTAGES OF CLAY POT IRRIGATION
I should add that the option for perennials is the fertility hole.
- dig a trench slightly deeper than the depth of your clay pots.
- instead of inserting a pot, place upright rolled up newspaper (such as local community rags you get on your nature strip) in the hole and throw in some coir and manure. You can also add dry or rotting sticks, even kitchen scraps.
- cover the space with a circle of cut (preferably red) shade cloth and weigh it down with a small log or rock.
- when hosing treat the marked hole as a pot and hose it deeply so that it fills and engorges.
The hole acts as a sponge -- holding moisture, compost and fertilizer which will rot down over time. You can dig these holes when you plant out anew or even add them at a later date. They work as a companion to perennials and act as a moisture reservoir -- similar to the pots..
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